No more spaceship dreams, no more azua, no more. Only an abiding sense of wrongness and the unbearable recollection of being violently penetrated. By the time i was eleven, i was suffering from both depression and uncontrollable rage. By thirteen, i stopped being able to look at myself in the mirror—and the few times i accidentally glimpsed my reflection Id recoil like id got hit in the face by a jellyfish stinger. (What did I see? I saw the crime, my grisly debasement, and if anyone looked at me too long I would run or I would fight.).
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I was confused about why i didnt fight, why i had an erection while i was being raped, what I did to deserve. And always I was afraid—afraid that the rape had ruined me; afraid that I would be found out; afraid afraid afraid. Real Dominican keywords men, after all, arent raped. And if I wasnt a real plan Dominican man I wasnt anything. The rape excluded me from manhood, from love, from everything. The kid before—hard to remember. Trauma is a time traveller, an ouroboros that reaches back and devours everything that came before. I remember loving codes and Encyclopedia brown and pastelones and walking long distances in an effort to learn what lay beyond. At night I had the most vivid dreams, often about Star Wars and about my life back in the dominican Republic, in azua, my very own Tatooine. Was just getting to know this new English-speaking me, was just becoming his friend—and then he was gone.
That shit cracked the revelation planet of me in half, threw me completely out of orbit, into the lightless regions of space where life is not possible. I can say, truly, que casi me destruyó. Not only the rapes but all the sequelae: the agony, the bitterness, the self-recrimination, the asco, the desperate need to keep it hidden and silent. It fucked up my childhood. It fucked up my adolescence. It fucked up my whole life. More than being Dominican, more than being an immigrant, more, even, than being of African descent, my rape defined. I spent more energy running from it than I did living.
I was raped when I was eight years old. By a grownup that I truly trusted. After he raped me, he told me i had to return the next day or I would be in trouble. And because i was terrified, and confused, i went back the next day and was raped again. I never told anyone what happened, but today im telling you. And anyone else who cares to listen. Not enough pages in the world to describe what it did. The whole planet could be my inkstand and it still wouldnt be enough.
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But I never really did forget. Not our exchange or your disappointment. How you walked out of the auditorium with your shoulders hunched. I know this is years too late, but Im sorry i didnt answer you. Im sorry i didnt tell you the truth.
Im sorry for you, essay and Im sorry for. We both could have used that truth, Im thinking. It could have saved me (and maybe you) from so much. But I was afraid. Im still afraid—my fear like continents and the ocean between—but Im going to speak anyway, because, as Audre lorde has taught us, my silence will not protect. X—, yes, it happened.
And that was. I signed your books. You thought I was going to say something, and when I didnt you looked disappointed. But more than that you looked abandoned. I could have said anything but instead I turned to the next person in line and smiled. Out of the corner of my eye i watched you pick up your backpack, slowly put away your books, and leave.
When the signing was over I couldnt get the fuck away from Amherst, from you and your question, fast enough. I ran the way ive always run. Like death itself was chasing. For a couple of days afterward I fretted; I worried that Id given myself away. But then the old oblivion reflex took over. I pushed it all down.
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I remember you proudly repped. During the few minutes we spoke, so i suspect youd moved back or maybe you were busy or you didnt know I book was in town. I have a distinct memory of you in the signing line, saying nothing to year anyone, intense. I assumed you were going to ask me to read a manuscript or help you find an agent, but instead you asked me about the sexual abuse alluded to in my books. You asked, quietly, if it had happened. You caught me completely by surprise. I wish I had told you the truth then, but I was too scared in those days to say anything. Too scared, too committed to my mask. I responded with some evasive bullshit.
Enter to win a 200 gift card to one of five toronto summerlicious restaurants from hire iheartRadio. Help them get to 1,000 likes for a chance to win a crate of fireworks from Kaboom Fireworks. has a contest to win a gaiam summer yoga prize pack. Illustration by ben Wiseman; photograph courtesy the author. X—, last week i returned to Amherst. Its been years since i was there, the time we met. I was hoping that youd show up again; i even looked for you, but you didnt appear.
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